By Denise A. Valdez, Reporter
AN international consultant at the Asian Development Bank (ADB) said public-private partnerships (PPPs) are instrumental in the implementation of the recently signed Universal Health Care Act.
ADB International Consultant Prakash Rao said the limitations of government budget are a common hindrance among developing economies to fully realizing a universal health care policy.
“The lack or the limitation of the financial ability of governments to be able to continually finance in a sustainable manner health infrastructure and health services is one of the key reasons why governments started looking at private sector involvement, not only for capital but also for service delivery,” he said at the Universal Health Care forum organized by the PPP Center of the Philippines on Friday.
Mr. Rao said the partnership between the public and private sectors is beneficial to both parties as it allows the government to bridge gaps in resources and the private sector to minimize risks in expansion.
He noted health PPPs may range from simple interventions such as allowing the private sector to provide non-medical services such as security, parking, laundry and canteen, to more comprehensive and complex approaches such as full hospital operations.
“Health PPP fundamentally consists of partnership agreements between the public and private entities, where in the Department of Health engages a private healthcare provider…with the aim to achieve overall policy objectives,” the ADB consultant said.
The Universal Health Care Act, which President Rodrigo R. Duterte signed into law last month, aims to extend the benefits of the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. to all Filipinos.
While the government works on the law’s implementing rules and regulations (IRR), Health Secretary Francisco T. Duque III earlier said adequate funding is necessary for the policy’s success.
For Mr. Rao, the government must note the important role that the private sector could play in augmenting this funding, while ensuring that the responsibility of providing healthcare services to communities still lies on the government’s shoulders.
“The engagement of the private sector does not mean giving away the outcomes of the overall healthcare delivery process. It continues to be with the government… The involvement of private sector is to ensure that they are actually being delivered as per the policy. The government can control, have the oversight and see that the requirements are being met on a sustainable basis,” he said.
“Healthcare infrastructure represents a signifiant cost for countries, and therefore PPPs do play a very important role in ensuring that you are able to build the infrastructure and provide services as per the requirement (of the policy),” he added.
On the side of the private sector, Mr. Rao said engaging in projects geared to implement the Universal Health Care Act is also attractive because “revenue risks are predominantly taken by the government.”
“The fact is the growth of the market in many of these developing countries…is growing at a very fast pace, especially in the context of Southeast Asia. As a result, even the private sector is willing to engage in PPPs and are looking at opportunities to actually provide the spectrum of services that is possible within the PPP context,” he said.
“From a private sector perspective…you would see that many of these companies are actually looking at expanding beyond borders and are actually working to set up hospitals, set up healthcare services in regions outside of their boundaries,” Mr. Rao added.
He said while the IRR is still being crafted, it is important for the government to consider and consult the private sector for the ways they could take part in the Universal Health Care policy.
“By leveraging private sector expertise, financing capacity and efficiency, public health systems have been able to take advantage of new technologies that clinical support practices…in many of the projects around the world,” Mr. Rao said.